Sandrina Malakiano & The Jilbab

Mar 25th, 2006, in News, by

Sandrina Malakiano and jilbab wearing.

Women who wear the jilbab, or headscarf, in Indonesia often complain of their decision to cover their hair as having a harmful effect on their careers or job prospects. The television presenter Sandrina Malakiano experienced something along these lines not long ago.

Sandrina Malakiano

Sandrina Malakiano, once a presenter of Metro TV‘s nightly news service, and who was born in Thailand but grew up in Bali, completed the Haj late last year and decided that she did not want to take off the jilbab after returning.

When I came back to Indonesia it felt difficult to take off the headscarf. Because of that I decided not to take it off anymore.
(Ketika kembali ke Tanah Air, berat rasanya membuka jilbab. Karena itu, saya memutuskan untuk tidak membukanya lagi.)

This caused problems at work with the station management of Metro TV making it clear that if she continued to wear the headscarf she could no longer appear before the camera. Their reasoning was that it is company policy for employees who appear in front of the camera not to have obvious signs of their religion on display.

Wearing the headscarf does not mean a person is not fit to be a presenter but the policy of Metro TV is that such people can only appear during the month of Ramadhan and on Islamic holidays.
(Seseorang berhijab tidak berarti tidak pantas menjadi presenter, namun khusus di Metro TV, seseorang tersebut hanya dapat muncul pada saat-saat bulan Ramadhan atau hari-hari besar Agama Islam lainnya.)

said Henny Puspitasari, PR & Publicity Manager for Metro TV.

Sandrina Malakiano, who is still employed by Metro TV, was disappointed but did not complain about her employer’s decision and has now resigned herself to working behind the camera only.

I am/was fully aware that every decision has consequences.
(Saya sadar sepenuhnya bahwa setiap keputusan pasti ada konsekuensinya.)

After taking leave for a few months she is now about to return to work.

I still have to get used to working behind the camera.
(Saya masih harus membiasakan diri bekerja di belakang kamera.)

The hardline Mujahadin Council denounced the policy of Metro TV.

If you can accomodate reporters who wear revealing clothing why do you reject reporters who wear the headscarf?
(Jika Anda bisa mengakomodasi wartawan Metro yang menggunakan pakaian you can see, mengapa Anda menolak wartawan Anda karena memakai jilbab?)

But generally there seems to be acceptance of Metro TV’s right to decide on these matters.


12 Comments on “Sandrina Malakiano & The Jilbab”

  1. avatar Deddy says:

    I wonder what fueled all this. If Sandrina is a good employee he must have know that she couldn’t get her job back as a news anchor as she understand the policy well before. In my opinion, she should have consulted her decision with her direct supervisor and ask for different role if she still want to work at Metro TV. It will be different if the policy was made after she made her decision which I believe is not the case.

  2. avatar Reza says:

    Are we still in the New Order era?? Public school used to ban students from wearing hijab/jilbab. I guess Metro TV owner who is a product of that era still think the same. If its OK during Ramadhan, does that mean Muslim presenter can only be Muslim only 1 month a year? Its like saying “if youre a practising Muslim women, please dont apply for anchor position at Metro”. What else do you expect from a Golkar man, nice work Surya Paloh!!!

  3. avatar Ditto Poerboatmodjo says:

    Sandrina must be aware that Metro TV is a National television channel that belong to all people from all walks of life. Which menas, it will represents neutral stance, including a clear division and separation between media professional works, which is very public, and religion, which is very personal. Religious attributes such as Jesus Christ’s cross/necklace, Muslim headscarfes/jilbab MUST NOT be wear as not to implicate certain religious sentiments or leniency.

    Such appearance, including Jilbab, can create negative image that reporter/anchors of Metro TV is supporting or sympathizing with one particular religion. Suku, Ras dan Agama (SARA) or Ethnic, Race and Religion are still a very sensitive issues in Indonesia and Metro TV as a national media is being extra cautious about this. Surely Sandrina as an intelligent person has to be aware of the consequences and that she was bound to a contract and regulation to the TV station BEFORE she decided to wear jilbab.

    Metro TV has a firm policy on national unity and Bravo for this!!!

  4. avatar ade hrp says:

    I think what’s sandra decision to wear jilbab is the best decision because its not easy for us to do like she does. She really has the ability to implement what she had learned from ALQuran. Her KALAM Program at ANTV is so great. Bravo Sandrina!

  5. avatar Noushad says:

    It is too intolerant of the Metro TV to decide that Sandrina Malakiano has no right to wear what she thinks appropriate. When women go on wearing very tightfitting, or transparent, or sexually porvocative clothes, especially in the western TV, mostly in the name of fashion, nobody has any problem. But when a woman wears a headscarf it becomes a huge threat to secularism everywhere, in Turkey, Egypt, Denmark, London and even in Indnonasia. This is nothing but pure Islamophobia. This pseudo-secular imagists are afarid of Islam’s appeal to woman’s chastity and modesty. Dear sister Sandrina, go on and on wearing your headscarf… Love!!!

  6. avatar Robert says:

    Noushad said:

    When women go on wearing very tightfitting, or transparent, or sexually porvocative clothes, especially in the western TV, mostly in the name of fashion, nobody has any problem.

    In what kind of religion do women have to wear transparent or sexually provocative clothes?

    But when a woman wears a headscarf it becomes a huge threat to secularism everywhere, in Turkey, Egypt, Denmark, London and even in Indnonasia.

    In the countries you mention, women are allowed to wear a headscarf in public, so what they do in their own time is their own business. I don’t see a threat here. But when you work for a private company or any other type of organisation you should stick to rules of the company or organisation.

    Apparently it is company policy for employees who appear in front of the Metro TV camera not to have obvious signs of their religion on display. When Sandrina Malakiano started working for Metro TV she agreed with the company rules and that is why she ended up behind the cameras now.
    This has nothing to do with intolerance, but everything with contracts and company rules.

  7. avatar Andrew says:

    Noushad said:

    When women go on wearing very tightfitting, or transparent, or sexually porvocative clothes, especially in the western TV, mostly in the name of fashion, nobody has any problem.

    Not entirely true – remember, we’re talking about news reporters here, not entertainers. I doubt CNN would allow its reporters to wear provocative clothes. You’re probably talking about Naked News here, in which case we can’t really argue about clothing because they don’t wear any. 🙂

  8. avatar Rani says:

    One big question guys. WHO ACTUALLY MAKES THE COMPANY POLICY?
    I don’t know when it began, but religious attributes are now seemed to be dangerous.
    Why can’t we wear religious attributes in front of camera? or at work? Just like what we call them, THEY ARE ONLY ATTRIBUTES. Does the attribute reflect the way we perceive things? I don’t think so. Don’t be so superficial that you have to worry about the surface. What lies inside is what matters, don’t you think? Is it now a problem or a dangerous thing to show people what our faith are? Do you think that moslem audience would not watch the news read by someone wearing a cross in his/her neck? or christian audience would not watch the news read by a women wearing a veil? Gosh, it’s ridiculous. I think we are creating even a bigger gaps among different believers by hiding the religious attributes. We, especially the media with its big roles in life, are supposed to educate the society, and not making them numb with the reality. Nothing is neutral. Metro TV should not try to be ‘a neutral place’, but instead try to be ‘a melting pot’. The company is using the ‘it’s the company policy’, because they can be sued if they touch SARA as a reason. That’s why; I asked at the beginning: WHO ACTUALLY MAKES THE COMPANY POLICY? Based on personal experience, during an interview for a preschool in Bandung when I was asked to take off my veil, they said it’s because the preschool is a franchise of a foreign company. What a sad sad reason. I say anyone, even a monkey, if he/she has the capability in what he/she is doing must be given a chance. So, Indonesia please…shake it off…and stand. Celebrate the differences! Cheers…

  9. avatar Robert says:

    Rani said:

    One big question guys. WHO ACTUALLY MAKES THE COMPANY POLICY?

    Owner? Director? Board of Directors? Personel department?

    Why can’t we wear religious attributes in front of camera? or at work?

    Why should they wear them at all in front of a camera? The belief of the presenter is a private matter and therefore not important for the viewer. As a viewer I am not interested to know wether the presenter is a Muslim, Christian, satanist or worshipper of the The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    What lies inside is what matters, don’t you think?

    Yes, exactly and that is why she can discard the scarf, because it is only an attribute (fashion accessory) as you put it. It is a piece of cloth and nothing else.

    Do you think that moslem audience would not watch the news read by someone wearing a cross in his/her neck?

    The fact whether a Muslim audience would watch or not watch is not that interesting, what happens after the broadcast is more interesting. For some viewers amongst the Muslim audience the cross might work as the proverbial red cloth on a bull and they might interpret the wearing of a cross as a serious provocation and act accordingly.

    I think we are creating even a bigger gaps among different believers by hiding the religious attributes.

    Why? Do you really think some religion-related problems have worstened due to the the fact that a presenter wasn’t allowed to wear a headscarf or a cross? Can you tell me what religion-fuelled issue or conflict wouldn’t have occured if the presenter had worn a religious attribute?

    We, especially the media with its big roles in life, are supposed to educate the society, and not making them numb with the reality.

    The task of Metro TV’s news service is to report the news and that involves showing reality in different forms (poltics, economics, culture, etc.). For education other programs are more suited. I fail to see the educational benefit of Sandrina Malakiano wearing a headscarf.

    Nothing is neutral. Metro TV should not try to be ‘a neutral place’, but instead try to be ‘a melting pot’.

    . It is not the task of Metro TV’s news service to be a melting pot, they only provide a neutral window that looks out on the society and that is where you find your melting pot. The presenter is not the subject, but only an intermediate that has the task to convey information to the viewer.

    The company is using the ‘it’s the company policy’, because they can be sued if they touch SARA as a reason

    You are using the ‘it’s the Islam’ in the same way the company is using the ‘it’s the company policy’. And the company wins because the employee has signed a contract which requires him/her to obey the company policy. Metro TV has a clear division between professional work and religion, the latter being a private matter.

    I say anyone, even a monkey, if he/she has the capability in what he/she is doing must be given a chance.

    Did you really say this during your job interview? Maybe you gave the people at the preschool some new ideas and started recruiting monkeys.
    Based on my personal experience, I never use the ‘a capable monkey can do this as well’ argument during a job interview. The times I used it, it didn’t benefit the outcome of the job interview at all, even with companies I suspected to be involved in monkey business…..

  10. avatar Abdul Khalid al Jumhuri says:

    I don’t understand the problem. Sandrina should be proud of her decision, and quit complaining. Al Jazeera also does not allow it, so what is the big deal? Go find a TV station that allows it, quit from METRO TV and be done with it. Why bother?

  11. avatar Odinius says:

    Well, I’m of two minds of this. On the one hand, I don’t like when hiring decisions are made on the basis of religion…that’s someone’s own business and not their company’s. On the other hand, it’s a well known fact that news broadcasters are hired in part because their looks are thought to be “non-threatening” and “mild.” In a plural society like Indonesia, it’s understandable that news outlets would discourage their anchors from looking “too much X” or “too much Y” no matter what X or Y are.

    So I agree with Abdul Khalid…if wearing a jilbab is more important to her than working as a broadcaster for Metro TV, then she should just change companies and move on.

  12. avatar Robert says:

    Interesting to see is what recently happened in Dearborn, USA:

    DEARBORN — Two Muslim women say that a McDonald’s restaurant refused to hire them, and insulted them during job interviews because they wear traditional Islamic dress.
    Toi Whitfield, 20, of Detroit and Quiana Pugh, 25, of Dearborn sued McDonald’s, the owner of the local franchise and its unidentified manager in Wayne County Circuit Court on Thursday. Their representative said they are considering filing civil rights complaints with the federal and state governments.

    “I applied for the McDonald’s position maybe two weeks ago and he simply (told me) I had to make a choice and remove my hijab, or I would not be able to establish employment there,” Pugh said.
    “When I walked away, I was definitely hurt by it and disturbed. I was confused that it could happen here in Dearborn, with so many Muslims,” she said.

    A man who would not identify himself at the restaurant, on Ford Road near Schaefer, referred all questions to representatives for McDonald’s. “We’re just trying to figure out what is going on,” he said.
    The man said the manager in question at the restaurant would not have a comment.
    The women are seeking $10 million in a suit.

    Source: Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News

    In this case the women didn’t accept store manager’s decision and went to court. The women are sueing McD’s for 10 Million USD. If they succeed they will never have to flip hamburgers in their life.
    There are plenty of articles concerning these two women, however no one mentions how the ladies think about handling and serving pork at McD’s.
    We’ll have to wait and see if McD’s company policy will prevail over religious arguments.

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